Customer Service Follow-Up

After I posted my rant about customer service last week, I decided to Twitter-shame the two companies involved. I didn’t hit Spectrum too hard, but Office Depot? Yeah, they got zinged, and much to my surprise, they responded. Today I’ll be talking about customer service follow-up.

Via direct message, Office Depot requested my order number, which you’d better believe I kept, given a) my history with customer service and b) my displeasure with the situation up to that point.

From there, the matter went to email and the Office Depot corporate office. I received a message from “Executive Customer Relations,” which sounded impressive, but then I worked in the Guest Letters Department when they changed our name to “Walt Disney World Executive Offices,” even though we were the better part of 3,000 miles away from corporate headquarters in Burbank. The email I received read as follows:

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with the delivery order.  I am sorry to hear of the difficulty that you experienced with your order & response from our store manager.  I want you to know that your feedback is very important to Office Depot, and we will be addressing this issue internally.  I am happy to know that you receive the correct item.
While I cannot change what has happened, and I would like to make it right.  I have requested a $30 Office Depot electronic gift card to be sent to you via email from Cash Star & Office Depot. The subject line will say Office Depot has sent you a gift card.  Also, please check your Spam folder if you do not see it in your Inbox. You may use it online or at any Office Depot/Office Max store location.

In a subsequent email, I got the electronic gift card, which is still residing in my inbox because I’m uncertain what, if anything, to do with it at this point. Use it? Toss it? If I use it, I’m giving Office Depot more business, which I’m not interested in doing. If I don’t use it, I’m wasting $30. I might just toss it into the paperwork folder and be done with it. There were opportunities throughout the transaction and delivery to call or write with some intention of settling me down or improving my mood. Those didn’t happen. I discussed this response with my mentor, another former Disney person (and manager) to see if her reaction matched mine. She replied, “You’ve been paid, now go away,” which sort of summed up the essence of the reply.

You might ask, “What did you expect?” or “What could they have done to make things better?” Honestly, I can’t think of anything they could do at this point to win back my business, They had three opportunities to get things right while the situation was unfolding, and they just fell into generalized response mode. I suppose the big failure was that no individual took charge on their end to make sure that the rest of the transaction and delivery ran smoothly. It’s called “owning the problem,” and no one was willing to do that. So, fine. I finally got my file cabinet–which I am happy with, despite it all–and I’ve moved my office-supply runs to the competition in the hopes of a better experience.

So, again, I ask the magical question: what does this have to do with technical writing?

It comes down to taking action when you or your organization has failed to deliver on a product or service. You apologize. You–or someone above you–takes personal responsibility to call the customer and address the situation while it’s happening and to make certain that the remainder of an existing issue is handled correctly. Put your best person on it. Expedite future delivery as soon as possible. Back off any potential extra charges the customer incurred in the process of the incorrect transaction. Find out from the customer directly the best time to get the delivery to them, discern what might be done to make things better, and ascertain what their remaining concerns might be. Assure the customer that the specific problems they had (name them, don’t talk generalities) will be addressed and not happen again. Some of that was tried in the final email from Office Depot, but by that point, they had already lost me. The correct time to address the problem would have been as soon as they discovered my dissatisfaction (in this case, the customer survey I filled out at length last week). And it appeared that they had my customer service account in their records because as I made phone calls, people were reading the comments. However, no one was reading the whole story as it was happening, hearing my irritation, and realizing that some sort of action needed to be taken right then. Once the customer leaves, it’s too late.

My point here is not to raise the ante and try to get more from Office Depot. I’m not interested at this point. I am sharing this story as a training exercise for their customer service staff so that they don’t lose another customer this way in the future. Am I being unfair? Ask yourself how forgiving you are on a transaction when it’s above a certain amount. Would you want to bring your business to the provider in the future? Something to think about when you’re on either side of a transaction that’s gone awry.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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4 Responses to Customer Service Follow-Up

  1. Christopher Carmichael says:

    I worked ATT from 1999 to 2004. Workers wore branded shirts—so when a customer stopped us in public, they were ours. I had a nice lady asking about long-lines (long distance) billing. I worked in the San Diego NOC. Her problem was now mine; but took several days and phone calls to straighten the issue. The customer didn’t care I worked data. I worked for ATT. The lady, who thanked me, was much happier. She was not tossed like a receipt into the circus. Alas, the service at ATT has gone downhill especially when Bell South bought the mothership. Cuss-tomer service is a big bump in the road filled with up-sales.

  2. cyyoung99 says:

    the giving of gift cards dilemma is always frustrating. I usually give them one more try unless their service is so crappy I don’t want the waste my energy.

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